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." michelle rhee is the head of students first, an organization that hopes to reform public education. she, of course, is the former head ofure d.c. schools. former speaker newt gingrich is rejoining us. he does not have a new book out, but his wife calista, does have a new book out, a children's book that will be coming out tomorrow. bob woodward, an associate editor of the "washington post" is the author of "the price of politics" he's written more books than this entire table combined. well, maybe not when you put newt gingrich in there. and pulitzer prize-winning author hendrick smith who has a new book called, "who stole the american dream?" all you people are here to sell books. that's pretty clear. ( laughter ) no, i'm teasing. we're glad to have all of you. mark zandi, let's just talk about what is the state of the american economy right now with just five weeks before we get to this election? the job numbers came out this week on tuesday. we had some very good economic news. housing numbers were up. consumer confidence was up. reports of companies hiring for the holidays seem to
investing in advanced teacher education. let's build a strong foundation. let's invest in our teachers so they can inspire our students. let's solve this. >> schieffer: and we're back now with our panel, larry sabato. i want to come back to you. how important do you think this debate is going to be, this first one? >> it's critical to mitt romney. he really does have to show his stuff there, and he has to-- he has to change his emage. he has the image of a kru club republican. he has to go after president obama in a coherent way with a real message. but, you know, history tells me, bob, that generally speaking, the challenger does gain from the first debate. it will be a surprise if he doesn't gain. and he very much needs to. he needs to get some momentum. based on history, i would say the odds favor mitt romney in the first debate. >> schieffer: let me ask you about your home state, virginia. your center is headquartered at u.v.a. what's happening there? is this going to come down to virginia? a lot of people think it might. >> well, it could. obviously, it would have to be very close to
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